Video update: Protestors blame immigration numbers for traffic woes

Members of the group Immigration Watch Canada took to the Blundell Road overpass in Richmond above Hwy. 99 early Wednesday morning to protest Canada’s immigration policy, blaming it in part for the Lower Mainland’s traffic woes.

The gathering of about a half dozen people unfurled a large, yellow and black-lettered sign stating “Fight gridlock: cut immigration” for northbound commuters to see.

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Dan Murray, spokesman for the group said the level of immigration in Canada is unwarranted and wants the federal government to reduce the numbers, which he believed would help lessen the impact on city streets.

“More people, more cars,” said Murray. “Every two people who come in as immigrants bring another car onto the road. That’s how it works.”

Member of the public's video from YouTube below:

Murray argued that Canada’s immigration policy is outmoded and should cut down from the 250,000 or so people he said have been accepted annually since 1990.

“Since that time, Ottawa has never provided a single iota of justification from bringing in 250,000 people,” he said. “Our current immigration intake is an abnormality in Canada’s immigration history. It’s causing all kinds of problems. One of which is traffic gridlock.”

Disagreeing with that stance was Balwant Sanghera, director of Richmond Multicultural Community Services who said Canada has long been built by an immigrant population and should not be targeted for traffic problems as a means of coercing Ottawa to re-think its immigration policy.

“I think the government does its studies and set the number (immigration intake) every year,” Sanghera said. “It’s an arbitrary number, but it’s flexible. Around 200,000 to 250,000 immigrants a year, I don’t think that’s too much. It’s not out of the ordinary and seems like a reasonable number.”

Sanghera said he felt it was unfortunate Immigration Watch Canada was blaming immigration numbers for clogged city streets and will realize immigrants are a vital part of Canadian society.

“They (immigrants) have contributed a lot to the country,” he said. “We should be welcoming immigrants and encouraging them to integrate into the mainstream,” Sanghera said. “That should be the main focus.”

Immigration Watch Canada’s Murray said the notion that immigration can act as an economic stimulus is false.

“Don’t look to immigration, because in the years from Confederation, up until about 1990, immigration did not provide any,” he said, basing his comment on a study done by the Economic Council of Canada which was disbanded in 1992.

“At the moment, lots of people in Richmond, where you’ve got a population that is mostly immigrant right now, has forced a lot of long-term residents to move out.”

Murray added that, while some who have left may have benefitted in the short-term by cashing in on rising property values, the longer view is not positive for communities across the Lower Mainland.

The segment most hurt is made up of those trying to enter the real estate market but finding themselves shut out by rising prices, said Brad Salzberg, another one of the IWC protestors.

“Unaffordability is a huge factor. All of those younger people coming up, graduating from university, they want to buy a home, but they have to move to Chilliwack,” he said, adding that is largely due to foreign investment.

“We are talking about immigration intake, not stopping immigration completely,” Murray said.  “So, if we need immigrants, we’ll take them. But the idea that because we have taken immigrants in the past, that we are compelled to take them in the future is bloody nonsense.”

A short while after the protestors put up their banner, RCMP members arrived on the scene as a result of complaints from some motorists and asked the group to ensure they did not drop anything from the overpass onto the roadway below.

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